Leaked Lockdown WhatsApps Just 'A View Into Matt Hancock's Psyche', Says Minister

Northern Ireland secretary says messages are only "partial account" of what happened.
Steve Parsons via PA Wire/PA Images

Leaked WhatApp messages about the government’s Covid response are little more than a “view into the psyche of Matt Hancock”, a cabinet minister has said.

The Daily Telegraph has published a series of stories over the past week based on a trove of more than 100,000 messages.

Its latest report revealed Hancock told aides he wanted to “frighten the pants off everyone” to ensure compliance with restrictions.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the messages just showed politicians “being human beings”.

He said: “It really is a partial account of what was going on and almost a view into the psyche of Matt Hancock rather than into the actual decision-making.

“Today’s revelations were around the time where there were no vaccines, there was limited testing.

“I think you have got to put it in the time context as well as everything else, which is why it’s important to wait for the inquiry.”

Heaton-Harris added: “I don’t think that you would find one politician that wasn’t afraid at the beginning of the lockdown – first lockdown, when we had no idea what the pandemic was going to be.”

Hancock was also reportedly irked by the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, now Lord Stevens, during the pandemic and even said ousting him would be a “massive improvement”.

Previous revelations from the hoard of messages include Hancock and Rishi Sunak’s shared belief that former special adviser Dominic Cummings’s time in Downing Street was a “nightmare”.

The messages were shared with the Daily Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who co-authored Hancock’s memoir the Pandemic Diaries, which covered his time as health secretary.

Hancock has suggested Oakeshott may have broken a confidentiality agreement and that he could take legal action.

She has defended the disclosure in recent days, insisting sharing the messages is in the public interest.

Hancock has said all the materials used to write his book have been made available to the official Covid inquiry.


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